Seven’s Sunrise has been forced to broadcast a public apology and pay an undisclosed sum to 15 Aboriginal people who sued the network following a highly controversial segment in 2018.
As first reported on Buzzfeed News on Thursday, a settlement has been reached between Seven and the Aboriginal group from the Northern Territory, which was led by Yolngu woman Kathy Mununggurr.
Last year in March, Sunrise aired a segment about non-Indigenous families caring for Aboriginal children who had been abused.
The controversial spot, which was later found to have breached the commercial television industry code of practice, followed children’s minister David Gillespie’s proposal that would allow non-Indigenous families to adopt Indigenous children to “save” them from rape, assault and neglect.
Seven found itself in hot water following the segment as it broadcasted footage alongside the story featuring residents in Yirrkala, an Aboriginal community one thousand kilometers east from Darwin.
The Yolngu group filed their lawsuit earlier this year in February, with the lawyer leading the defamation case, Peter O’Brien, said even though a blurring filer was used, the adults and children were still able to be seen and identified.
O’Brien said the footage was originally shot with the resident’s permission as part of a story about a positive health initiative but has seen been taken out of context and spun in a negative light.
In a Federal Court hearing Thursday morning, Justice Steven Rares said the public apology and payout were “appropriate” given the circumstances.
The public apology will be broadcast on Sunrise at an undetermined date.
The payout to the six children (aged between five and nine) will be held in a trust until they turn 18. The sums are confidential until 2033, which is the year after the youngest child turns 18.
A Seven spokesperson told B&T: “The settlement was mentioned in court yesterday but as [it’s not been] finalised we’re unable to say more at the moment apart from saying we’re pleased.”
Seven tried to strike out the lawsuit in June this year but was unsuccessful. It will also pay the Aboriginal group’s legal bills.